Disappearing Act


The .org will become old enough to legally buy alcohol in the United States next month. I haven’t given much thought to this, mainly because of the chaos that’s erupted in my life over the past couple of months, but even if next month’s anniversary pales in comparison to this website turning the big two-oh last year, this is still a significant milestone. As drastically as the .org has changed over these twenty-one years, in keeping with all the changes in my life during that time, it’s remained a kind of bedrock for me, something I’ve been doing here for a myriad of reasons, and something I want to keep up for the foreseeable future. Even if I hadn’t invested so much of my time and spirit into the .org, just maintaining it after all these years has a strange kind of importance to it, something that I don’t think I can come up with words to describe that are more powerful than the ever-increasing number of years that it’s been up now.

That is what made the past week or so incredibly difficult to me. I haven’t been able to draft my blogs over the weekend like I prefer to do, simply because I’ve got too many things on my metaphorical plate right now, so many of my blogs have been quickly dashed off on Mondays after fighting for the time I need to take care of them. Imagine my surprise last week, then, when I found that my website was down when I went to blog here on Monday. I couldn’t figure out the problem right away, and I was fighting the combined effects of sleep deprivation and a long day of teaching, so I figured that it was better to collapse into my bed as quickly as possible, rest up, and then come back to the problem with fresh eyes.

That was when I spiked a fever, and even though I immediately identified several contraindicators making it clear that what I was feeling wasn’t the onset of COVID-19, just having that fever come on so suddenly was intensely frightening. Getting sick is just going to be a lot scarier now than it was before the pandemic, and even though my symptoms mostly went away in forty-eight hours, having to deal with my first real illness of the pandemic was another burden that I didn’t need to deal with at that moment. As if that weren’t enough, the bug I got was apparently in the process of going around town, just as we hit midterm week, so now I’ll have even more on my plate here as I work to help students get caught up on the things they missed. (At least now our students seem to understand that when we say “Stay home if you feel sick,” we actually mean it.)

My efforts to diagnose the problems with the .org didn’t fare any better there, and I was hoping that getting over the bug would help. It didn’t, and as the days ticked away last week, I had to ask for help in figuring out just what had happened to make my website go dark. To make a long story short, there was a server configuration issue that would have largely been my fault, were it not for a hopelessly vague email I’d gotten a few weeks earlier that would have presaged the problem (and made it a cinch to solve) if the people who sent the email knew what they were doing. Fixing the problem still took a bigger chunk of my weekend than I would have liked, but the fact that you’re reading these words now at least proves that it all turned out okay in the end.

Since my website is nearly twenty-one years old and all, maybe it was due for that kind of prolonged outage. Having said that, though, this whole experience has made me very sad, simply because it’s yet another reminder of how my computing knowledge has atrophied since I first launched the .org back in 2000, when I was still working as a website designer and thinking that all this Internet stuff, as we understood it back then, would be my future. I use the Internet even more now than I did in 2000, but in much different ways, and most of those don’t even approach the kinds of behind-the-scenes stuff that was my bread and butter back at the turn of the millennium. As much as the new directions my life has taken over the past twenty-one years have worked out for me, it’s hard to avoid romanticizing, at least in part, that time of my life when I was so focused on the nuts and bolts of the Internet, and all the possibilities they contained.

I’m sure that I’ll have more to say about the past twenty-one years when I write another special .journal post for this website’s anniversary next month, but even more than I did last year in the leadup to the twentieth anniversary of the .org, I’m thinking a lot about November of 2000, when I made that big pivot in my life that led to the creation of this website. A week-long outage isn’t that much in the life of a website that’s nearly twenty-one years old, but I still wish it hadn’t happened at all. Maybe it’s time for me to brush up on modern web technology here, just to make sure things run more smoothly for the .org over the next year, let alone the next twenty-one.

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